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British Industrial History

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Douglas Earle Marsh

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1909. Motor train on the Epson Downs branch.
1910. Super heater tank engine.

Douglas Earle Marsh (1862–1933) was the Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Superintendent of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway from November 1904 until his early retirement on health grounds in July 1911.

Marsh was born at Aylsham in Norfolk on 4 January 1862, and was educated at Brighton College and University College London.

He worked for the Great Western Railway under William Dean becoming Assistant Works Manager at Swindon in 1888.

In 1896 he became Chief Assistant Mechanical Engineer of the Great Northern Railway at Doncaster railway works under H. A. Ivatt, where he participated in the design of the Ivatt Atlantics.

Marsh succeeded Robert John Billinton as the Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Superintendent at Brighton Works on 23 November 1904.

Marsh's locomotive classes included two designs of Atlantic 4-4-2 (H1 Class and H2 Class), and four designs of 4-4-2T (I1, I2, I3, and I4). In 1910 he designed two 4-6-2T tank locomotives of the J1 and J2 classes. His least successful design was the LB&SCR C3 class 0-6-0 freight locomotives. Marsh also rebuilt many of his predecessors' locomotives with larger boilers thereby creating the A1X, B2X, C2X, E4X, E5X and E6X classes.

In 1907 he introduced an example of the Schmidt superheater on one of his LB&SCR I3 class locomotives, with dramatically improved results. Whilst at Brighton he abolished the Stroudley yellow livery for passenger locomotives and removed the names from them.

During Marsh's period in office Brighton railway works built up a serious backlog of locomotives awaiting repair, and by 1910 30% of the locomotive stock was unusable. Marsh received a lot of the blame for this situation although it was partly because the works was overwhelmed with work. Resignation and retirement

Marsh was never popular with the workforce at Brighton, and he resigned on the grounds of ill health in July 1911, following accusations of a number of irregularities in his accounting.

Shortly after his resignation he became a consulting engineer for the Rio Tinto Company until 1932.

He died in Bath in May 1933.

1934 Obituary [1]

DOUGLAS EARLE MARSH was locomotive superintendent of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway from 1905 until 1911, and during this period his development of the large-wheeled passenger tank locomotive exerted an influence on British practice which has lasted to the present day. He was also an early advocate of feed water heating and superheating, and in 1909 one of his superheated tank engines took trains on the London and North Western Railway in turn with one of that company's express passenger engines, and showed a marked economy in fuel.

Mr. Marsh was born in 1862 and educated at Brighton College.

In 1879 he commenced a three years' course in engineering at University College, London.

He then became a pupil at the Swindon works of the Great Western Railway under the late Mr. William Dean, M.I.Mech.E., and was subsequently employed as draughtsman, and later as inspector of materials.

In 1888 he was appointed assistant works manager at Swindon.

He joined the Great Northern Railway as works manager at Doncaster in 1896, and held this position until his appointment at Brighton.

He retired six years later and became consulting engineer to the Rio Tinto Company, and acted in this capacity until 1932.

His death occurred on 25th May 1933.

He had been a Member of the Institution since 1896.

A Recent Biography

An excellent account of Marsh's life and work was written by Klaus Marx and published in 2005[2]. This carefully examines his acheivements and shortcomings. Rather than relying on hearsay about Marsh's abrasive attitude to his workforce, the author has taken the unusual step of including verbatim accounts of meetings between Marsh and trades union representatives and workers. The author is also keen to give due credit to Marsh's Chief Draughtsman, Basil Kingsford Field, for the success of some of the improvements introduced in Marsh's era.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1934 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries
  2. 'Douglas Earle Marsh - His Life and Times' by Kaus Marx, The Oakwood Press, 2005